Just as Sara Zapata believes in doing good, no matter the cost, her brother Emiliano believes in the need to do something good with his life. Because of their convictions, they are forced to flee from Juarez, Mexico, to escape persecution and retaliation from human traffickers. Seeking asylum, they cross the border into the United States, but an attack ensues. Afterwards, Sara finds herself in the Fort Stockton Detention Center; however, her brother has escaped with the contraband that put their lives in jeopardy in the first place: Leopoldo Hinnjosa’s phone. Hinojosa is the man responsible for the enslavement and abuse of multiple women, andRead More →

Wrenched from her childhood home in Memphis and from a father she loves, sixteen-year-old Skye Rogers has been transplanted to New York City’s Upper West Side to reside with the ultra-wealthy—the American Royalty.  Calling The Monmouth School, which she attends with her twin brother Red, her personal hell, Skye lives with her mother, Deidre Allen, whom she despises, and a detached stepfather who tolerates her. While Red makes friends effortlessly, Skye (aka Blue) struggles to make tentative connections. However, she does befriend Jenny Johnson, with whom she bonds over a mutual wrist-slitting suicide attempt.   Both girls are also ambitious, with Jenny hoping to be aRead More →

In 1943 in Wichita Falls, Texas, twelve-year-old Jerrie Cobb climbed, dipped, and banked in her father’s 1936 Waco biplane under her father’s guidance.  These were precious times for Jerrie, since flying was in her blood.  However, despite her talent and aptitude, Jerrie was denied a career as a jet pilot or an astronaut since she grew into adulthood during an era when flying was considered men’s work and society expected their women to be timid and beautiful. Because piloting a jet was physical, technical, dangerous, and dirty and because war maneuvers involved rough, rowdy, and ruthless work, women were excluded. While men scooped up theRead More →

We Unleash the Merciless Storm is Tehlor Kay Mejia’s sequel to We Set the Dark on Fire.  It picks up the story threads of Carmen Santos and Daniela Vargas, the two brides of Mateo Garcia.  In the upper class society of Medio, marriages are composed of one groom and two brides: a Segunda to nurture a man’s passions and emotions and a quick-witted and loyal Primera to nurture his logical and discerning nature. In this world, the power structure prioritizes the wealthy and leaves the rest to suffer.  Although the wealthy share a narrative about privilege and destiny, Dani knows their narrative is a lie,Read More →

Destined to be a classic survival story like Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, Be Not Far from Me by Mindy McGinnis proves that the world is not tame.  Ashley Hawkins lives near the Appalachian Trail in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, “a place where geography cannot only kill [her] but also dictate [her] friends” (5). With her mama’s DNA that drove her to do everything alone and with her daddy’s inability to say he is wrong about something, Ashley has independence and stubbornness in her genes.  As a result of these traits and coupled with her explosive temper, Ashley acquires the nickname ass-kicker at summer camp.  FromRead More →

Readers of the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins will likely find Crown of Oblivion by Julie Eshbaugh a lively read, rich with action and adventure but frightening with its plot line and themes about the abuses of power and the disparity in the treatment of human beings in their fight for both justice and survival. Like Katniss Everdeen, Astrid Jael is a strong and feisty female character who has chosen to risk her life in a cutthroat competition in order to win her freedom and to gain citizenship for herself and her family.  With its choreographed cruelty, the Race of Oblivion grants citizenship with allRead More →

The balance between humans and nature is a recurring theme in The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco.  In her cautionary tale about the long-lasting and detrimental consequences of man-made climate change, Chupeco also includes hope and redemption.  Furthermore, she poses the question: What if the world didn’t tilt?  Although the book is targeted more towards young adults than fifth graders, that’s an awesome inquiry question since fifth graders would soon discover that without Earth’s tilt, humanity would be in a sorry state. Set in both the sand-locked Golden City—where the sun is relentless and resources are scare—and in Aranth—where ignorance is a strength andRead More →

Despite there being few absolutes in this world, the human brain finds comfort in its ability to classify something as good or evil, right or wrong.  The unfamiliar or mysterious makes humans uneasy and fearful.  Shelby Mahurin explores this truth in her recent book Serpent and Dove, a story that takes place in a world of shadows, rituals, and magic. The characters that populate this setting in seventeenth-century France include Coco Monvoisin, a Dames Rouges—a red witch whose blood is a powerful ingredient in most enchantments. Wild, unpredictable, and sometimes dangerous, their magic is not bound by any laws or rules, unlike that of theRead More →

At eighteen years old, Selah is the seneschal-elect of Potomac, which implies that she will soon be the steward of her province’s resources, as well as the person to oversee its courts, its militia, and its administration.  However, as a woman in the historical time in which the Anna Bright’s novel The Beholder is set, Selah will need a man by her side to help her rule, despite her keen mind and kind heart. As her fiancé, Selah has chosen Peter Janesley, who is brilliant at math and at sports.  However, this smart, earnest, and kind young man rejects the extended marriage proposal.  Given Selah’sRead More →